History sheds light on experiences of child refugees

October 17 / 198

This has been supported by a grant from the Melbourne Humanities Foundation with matching funds from the Scanlon Foundation, enabling the team to partner with Kids’ Own Publishing and the History Teachers Association of Victoria to use the books to teach history within Victorian primary and secondary schools and in the running of workshops for teachers to assist them in using these resources in the classroom. 

After becoming the Faculty of Arts’ first ever, and the University of Melbourne’s first female ARC Laureate Fellow, Joy Damousi lost no time in bringing together a team of talented researchers to carry out an extensive five-year project looking at the history of child refugees in Australia. 

A crucial aspect of the project has been the work the team has recently done within local communities to generate new and powerful understandings of the impact and experience of living as a child refugee in Australia throughout the 20th and early 21st century, but also today.

In this first phase of its community engagement, the Fellowship partnered with Fitzroy Primary, a school with one of the highest enrolments of child refugees in Victoria. 

“With several colleagues from the Faculty of Music and funding from the Victorian Women's Trust, the Dennoch Fund and Vanraay Family Fund, we’re helping develop a music program at the school,” says Professor Damousi.

“In so doing, our conscious aim is to enhance educational learning for children from refugee backgrounds and foster positive intercultural engagement within their immediate community.”

With development of partnerships crucial to the overall success of the project, the Fellowship has also joined forces with the Melbourne School of Education, the Melbourne Social Equity Institute and children's publishing house Kids' Own Publishing. 

The collaborations have resulted in a series of books including stories written by South Sudanese refugee children living in Traralgon in Donkeys Can’t Fly on Planes in 2012 and the stories their parents wrote for them in In My Kingdom in 2014 and All the way Home in 2015. 

Created within the school community of the Latrobe English Language Centre and the Liddiard Street Primary School Traralgon, this will enable the team to develop a collaborative and creative methodology, one that, according to Professor Damousi, will enable them to hear and better understand the experiences of those involved and the impact this public and intergenerational storytelling has on the children and their families. 

“Another aspect of our work is developing materials that will support use of the books in teaching history within Victorian primary and secondary schools and running workshops for teachers to assist them in using the resources in the classroom,” Professor Damousi says.

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